My surfboard bucked over the swells as I paddled toward the distant place where blue sky met deeper blue sea. Cool water gave me a playful slap in the face. It was a perfect day for surfing, and I was doing pretty good for a beginner.
When I got far enough out I sat up on my board and rested for a few minutes, watching the more experienced surfers ride in. There was a sweet spot where the waves looked just right, but it was crowded over there, and I didn’t want to butt in. Someday, that would be me. I had to get some more practice first.
I lay down on my board and turned to face the shore. Palm trees and beach houses lined up behind the strip of sandy beach. I let one wave go by, then as soon as I felt the next one coming I paddled hard, reaching with my arms, straining my muscles until they ached, faster and faster, until the wave picked me up and took over. My board glided forward, fast and smooth, and I pushed myself up with my arms, then got one foot under me, and then I was standing, balancing, flying over the water, my grin so big I could feel the salt spray cooling my teeth.
The wave slowed as I got near the shore, and I wobbled, then splashed into the ocean, doing a back-flop to avoid the reef only a few feet below the water. As I climbed back on the board and turned out to face the ocean again, I couldn't see any surfers. I checked over my shoulder to see them pulling their boards up on the sand, or standing there, watching the waves.
The waves were still coming. That sweet spot looked as sweet as ever. I couldn’t figure out why they’d all gone in.
This was the chance I’d been waiting for all afternoon. I paddled out to the place where the waves had looked the best, where all the really good surfers had been doing their tricks. When I got there, I checked again to see if anyone else was around. Everyone was out of the water. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed like they were all watching me.
I let three waves go by before I took one. With all those people watching, I couldn’t mess this up. The force behind my board, pushing me forward, surprised and exhilarated me. The waves really were better over here! I got to my feet and enjoyed the ride of my life, shooting over the water, sliding right up onto the sand.
Everyone was watching but no one was smiling as I carried my board up the beach. I wondered if I’d broken some kind of surfer code. Maybe there was some rule that on Saturdays at three, all the really cool surfers take a fifteen minute break.
“Hey,” I said to the nearest guy. “Why’d everyone get out?”
“Dude, didn’t you see the shark?”